Google is ditching its controversial “first click free” policy and will be reprogramming its search engine to keep publishers with subscription happy. On Sunday, October 1, the Mountain View-based company announced that henceforth, news websites that run strictly on subscription are no longer bound to offer its users three free articles per day to appear prominently in the search engine’s results. This rule that came under fire from publishers at the time of its execution is now eliminated following several complaints from Media Outlets, such as the News Corp, stating that it was losing business.

The three free articles rule - which is also known as Google’s "first click free" policy - was in practice for the last 10 years. According to this policy, users who did not subscribe to the publisher’s services would be allowed to see and read the full content of the first three news articles of the media outlet, avoiding restriction of the paywalls. News providers had to abide by this policy if they wanted to feature prominently and get top rank in Google Search results.

First free click policy removed following vehement criticism from news companies

Many media outlets openly expressed their dislike for this policy. The Rupert Murdoch established News Corp., as well as Axel Springer, dubbed this policy as “toxic.” The news of the impending change in Google’s much-criticized rule was first revealed by News Corp’s chief executive Robert Thomson.

For the uninitiated, Murdoch’s News Corp. publishes two newspapers, i.e., The Times and The Sun. In a conference held in September, Thompson revealed that Google is thinking about changing its “first click free” policy soon. The News Corp chief also added that the change would also reflect prominently and fundamentally in the “content ecosystem.”

Why change the policy after a decade?

Google had introduced the policy stating that it would lead to increase in subscriptions for news outlets.

However, the claims made by the company did not bear fruition for most media organizations. Media outlets such as the News Corp always complained that its sales figures were going down thanks to the non-subscription users visiting the site just for the free articles. The Wall Street Journal took matters into its own hands stopped following the Google policy.

Although the rankings of some media outlets opposing the strategy dropped regarding Google Search results, they saw a substantial spike in subscriptions. Google News’ Vice President Richard Gingras eventually admitted that the company changed its policy after realizing that subscriptions were important for publishers’ growth.

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